End of the Great Yearning?

My last upsurge of grief came exactly one month before the seventh anniversary of Jeff’s death. That upsurge was so severe, my grief felt raw, as if he’d recently died. I feared a terrible month leading to the anniversary, but there were only a few moments of sadness after that horrendous day. In the two and a half months since the anniversary, I haven’t experienced much emotion, either sad or glad. (Hence the sporadic blog posts.)

It’s as if the great yearning that gripped me for the past seven years took a sabbatical. There’s been no particular yearning to go home, no unbearable yearning to see Jeff once more, no yearning to know where he is or if he is. There’s been no yearning for adventure, no yearning for experiences to prove that I still exist, no yearning for meaning or knowledge or wisdom, no yearning for an end to the loneliness. There hasn’t even been any yearning to express myself. Just a barely swinging emotional pendulum and a quasi-quiet mind.

I thought this hiatus from yearning was due to my arm — not just the shock of the fall, the months of pain, and the horror of having a deformed arm (if you could see my arm, you probably wouldn’t notice the deformity, but what I see and feel is far from normal), but also the torpid backlash from the highly traumatic experience. For more than four months, I’d been mostly housebound and isolated, and I thought the restricted life helped me welcome aloneness. Recently, though, I read that in year eight of grief, people begin to feel a little tired of working so hard that they let go of the busyness, pull back, and go in their alone zone. Apparently what I thought was a stage of my physical healing was actually a stage in my grief healing, though I suppose it could be both — coming to terms with the physical trauma could have helped me come to terms with the residual loneliness of grief. (If this woman’s timeline holds true, next year I will be ready to question my old dreams and start new ones. These dreams are supposed to be magical because they will be from the new me.)

Whatever the reason for this equability, this lazy pendulum swing, this hiatus from yearning — whether it’s due to the destroyed arm or the grief timeline — it’s been . . . different. I’ve been indulging my indolence because . . . well, because . . . why not? Nothing pulls at me. Nothing pushes me. I’m sure some day adventure, responsibility, or need will call to me once more but for now, simply living is enough. After my long months of isolation, I’m gradually picking up my life where I left it when I fell — taking an occasional walk, going to dance classes now and then. Next week I will probably be back at all my dance classes (with a third ballet class thrown in for good measure) as well as continuing my own version of physical therapy.

(The doctor hasn’t yet prescribed therapy sessions for my destroyed arm/wrist/elbow/fingers because he said all the therapist would do is sit me in a corner and have me work my immobile wrist and fingers, and that I can do on my own. Next month, though, I will probably start more advanced therapy. I’m doing well on my own — I can now drive, type, open bottles and doors, make a fist, do curls and overhead presses with a five-pound dumbbell, hold on to a ballet barre, do the requisite hand movements for Hawaiian dances — but I still have a long way to go.)

Oddly, this “active passivity” (for lack of a better term to describe my current state of mind), hasn’t dimmed my appreciation for the small miracles of living. Yesterday I went to lunch with three other women, and in the middle of the meal, it awed me to think of all the life choices and coincidences that led us — a woman born in Taiwan, one born in Singapore, one in Los Angeles, and one in Denver — to that very place.

Soon there will be a couple of more miracles in my life (and yours!) — the publication of two new novels, the first new Pat Bertram books in five years. Next month look for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, a mystery involving my dance class, and Unfinished, a novel about a grieving woman. (I’ve read too many books where someone dies and no one goes through grief except for a brief bout of tears, or the author tosses in a single sentence about the character going through the five stages of grief, or the author completely skips the first horror of grief and picks up the story years later. I wanted to do tell the truth and show the strength that comes along with the constant tears of breath-stealing grief.)

For the moment, though, I have no real plans and no plans to get plans. I’ll just accept this (possibly temporary) lack of yearning the same way I accepted the great yearning that propelled me for so many years.

Wishing you blue skies and clear days until next time.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Novel About a Grieving Woman

Several months after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month. I’ve never seen the point of NaNoWriMo — if you want to write, write. You don’t need to be part of an international campaign to foist more hastily written tripe on an unsuspecting public. Still, in an effort to deal with my grief, I’d been trying all sorts of new things, and NaNoWriMo seemed like a challenge. I’ve always been a slow writer, and I wanted to see what would happen if I wrote without regard for any sort of cohesiveness or literary merit. Other people who had participated told me that when you let NaNoWinneryourself go, wonderful things happened, which, in my case, was not at all the truth.

Still, I did finish the word count. (And forgive me if I add that I see no benefit to counting words. What difference does it make if one person can write 10,000 words in a day, while another can only write 100?) What I mostly ended up with at the end of the month were disconnected scenes of a novel about a grieving woman. I wanted to get the emotion down on paper before I forgot the horror and agony of new grief, and that I did.

Well, now I’m typing up those long-fallow pages, and it’s been a surprise. The angst is there, but so is humor. How did I manage to write anything but the most sorrowful prose while still in the depths of grief? For example, here is a passage I typed up this morning:

Amanda made her way to the buffet table. The merry widows were huddled together, poring over the selection.

“Make sure Paula brings her meatballs to my funeral lunch,” Jackie said. “Katherine’s lime mold is something I’d just as soon not see.”

“You wouldn’t see it anyway,” Muffie cackled. “You’ll be dead. I like a good Jell-O mold, especially with marshmallows. Put that on my list.”

“Buffalo wings are my favorite,” Barb said. “They’re messy, so be sure to bring some of those wet wipes. Everyone will be dressed in their best, and I don’t want the men remembering me by stains on their ties.”

Amanda slipped away from the three long-time widows before they could see her. No way could she deal with them today. Usually she saw them as the fairy godmothers in the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty—brightly dressed, rotund, and into everyone’s business—but today they struck her more like the witches in Macbeth.

Would she become like them now that David was gone, with nothing better to look forward to than her own funeral? But there was Sam . . .

Okay, so it isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it is a lighthearted respite from the rest of the story. I wonder what other gems I’ll find that I’ve forgotten?

At the time I conceived the story, I wasn’t sure where to go with it — hence the disconnected scenes — but I don’t think I need to go anywhere with it other than finishing what I already have: a grieving widow, an angry daughter, a cyber lover, a gun, and hints of evil-doing by the dying husband (a preacher, incidentally, who supposedly led an exemplary life.) Sounds like an interesting story!


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.